Engagement Ceremony

It’s been five weeks since the contestants entered the Spouse House, and so far we’ve seen only one marriage.  Episode 6 picks up where episode 5 left off—with Missy’s announcement that she’s leaving the house.  Still convinced she will marry Chris, she dangles the possibility of his leaving with her.  He takes a moment for thoughtful reflection, before realizing he doesn’t want to live in the house without her.  So Chris and Missy decide to leave together, return to Chicago, and continue to work things out.

Chris and Missy - 'The Spouse House'

Which isn’t such a bad idea.  They came to the Spouse House looking to get married—so what if they don’t marry on the show?  It’s not like they don’t have issues (or one BIG issue) to work on, but maybe they’ll have better luck without the pressure, speed, and constant reminder that if they don’t get married, one, if not both, of them could be evicted.  And if they do end up getting married, I don’t think it unreasonable that the show takes at least some of the credit.

Eviction

A Spouse House family dinner

With Chris and Missy choosing to leave, there are no evictions this week.  And so all eyes turn to Jimmy and Kelli Jo, who by all accounts are knocking at marriages door…

But there’ no answer.  Upon receiving Kelli Jo’s father’s blessing—the only real obstacle supposed to be standing in their way—Jimmy comes down with a perplexing case of nerves that manifests itself as a tangible distancing.  The cause: When Kelli Jo told him she was starting to fall in love with him.  Jimmy slammed on the brakes so hard I think he got a mild case of whiplash.

Of course, he recognizes the milestone—the ‘taking of the next step’—Kelli Jo made with her admission.  But slowly, the shock of what she said took root, then grew at an alarming, almost impossible, rate.

When the doc asked Jimmy if he wanted to propose, and Jimmy said he didn’t feel “comfortable” being married right now, disbelief caricatured the faces of everyone in the room.  And only moments after Kelli Jo had cut the chain that was holding her back, looking very much like the dog who struggles desperately to free itself only to be unsure of what to do with its new-found freedom, standing stock-still just beyond the yard, bathed in lonely street-light and casting unknowing glances in all directions.

Or something to that effect.

When Jimmy rolled out the ‘I’ve been hurt before’ spiel, it was clear Kelli Jo wasn’t buying it.  Her assertion that Jimmy wasn’t like the guys she dated in the past,  immediately countermanded by her reiterations of “The same thing happening again” and feeling “second-best,” left the two opposing statements tripping over one another.  Amidst mass vocalizations of disbelief, Jimmy curtly ended the discussion by saying, “I don’t know what to say—it’s not happening tonight.”

The New Spouse House Singles

Chris’ and Missy’s departure means there are two open spots in the Spouse House, which subsequently means the arrival of two new singles.  Tracy, a 38-year-old Business Developer, and Kevin, a 37-year-old Flight Attendant are the two new additions.  Scott (Captain in the U.S. Army, had an uneventful date with Ashley Lauren last week) is—to put it accurately—excited with the arrival of Tracy.  Jimmy, though not threatened, casually notes that Kelli Jo is also a flight attendant.

Kevin doesn’t appear again in this episode.

Exploratory Marriage: Flip-Flopping and 180’s

Darren and Isabella

Darren and Isabella - 'The Spouse House'

If you remember from episode 5, Darren and Isabella had an instant, mutual attraction before hitting it off at the batting cages.  If you remember, they kissed when Darren won a bet.  If you remember, things couldn’t have looked better.  Which is why I imagine they were offered the opportunity to enter into an exploratory marriage.  Seems like a perfectly reasonable next step.

So when Darren broaches the subject with Isabella about wanting to give it a go, Isabella’s belligerent turn-around isn’t what’s expected.  She goes from hesitant due to previously being married to outraged and insisting that Darren is trying to control her or exert some kind of claim on her.  She argues bombastically, saying she hasn’t even had the opportunity to get to know anyone else.

Darren—speechless, moderately aghast—denies that he’s attempting anything of the sort.  As the only original cast-member yet to make any real connection, the poor guy thought he’d finally found one with Isabella.  Obviously, almost painfully, ready to explore the first real connection he’s had, he looks downright dejected as he suffers through accusations that he’s trying to force her into an exploratory marriage with him.  After insisting in an affectless tone that he harbors absolutely no desire to do any of the things levied against him, he says, “I wish you the best,” and tells her he wants her to explore her options.  If any one thing is clear, it’s that Darren—once something of the house clown—is done playing coy dating games.  If only someone else was…

Scott And Tracy

Scott and Tracy - 'The Spouse House'

Scott and Tracy take their date to the pool for a light game of half-court volleyball.  Scott, a career military man whose spent three of the last seven years deployed overseas, has seen his fair share of relationships suffer because of the nature of his work.  To his credit, he appears relatively unfazed by it.  But now he’s ready to settle down.

Tracy, the new-comer, regales Scott with the drawn-out details that lead to her getting married at 30—(one year dating, two years engaged, three years married—I suppose step four was divorce…).  She admits that it took her some time to re-warm to the idea of marriage, but that she’s thawed out and ready to start anew.

Both concur there’s an immediate attraction, and continue to agree that they’re getting along famously, and then kiss, like they’re trying to prove something.

Later on, while they’re cuddling on the couch, Scott asks her how she would feel about exploring marriage.  (At the rate they’re going, they might already be married by the time you read this.)  Scott doesn’t want to beat around the bush; Tracy is genuinely surprised at how well they’re getting along.  They decide to retire to a bedroom, presumably to further discuss the merits of an exploratory marriage.

Tom and Ashley Lauren

Ashley Lauren, Tom, and Ashley K. - 'The Spouse House'

From last week’s episode, Ashley Lauren tells Ashley K. off in no uncertain terms.

In what can hardly come as a shock, Tom and Ashley Lauren have entered back into their exploratory marriage in the wake of Ashley Lauren putting her foot down, and sending Ashley K. to ride off into the silvery moonlight on her broom.

Ashley Lauren and Tom head to a Mediterranean restaurant, palates watering for, of all things, hummus.  Things are going splendidly in that particular way Tom and Ashley Lauren have when things are going well.  Not for the first time, Tom intimates the possibility of proposing at the week’s end.  Ashley Lauren says she would accept… depending on how things go over the next few days.  In the spirit of charitable good-will, they order two orders of hummus, one to bring back to Darren, who could certainly use the cheering up (even if it is hummus).

But, like the scratched CD stuck in the broken player that can only play the first few bars of a song before going shriekingly atonal, Tom and Ashley Lauren seem as ill-fated as ever.  Barely through the door, an argument erupts when Ashley Lauren hands Darren the hummus and Tom shares in the credit.  What follows is the (by now expected) escalation—the shoring up of arms—that precedes the opening salvo.  Seeking out the isolation of their room, the argument takes that all-too-familiar course of ‘all give and no take’—or the other way around, depending on with whom you ally yourself.

In what seems to be the inevitable end, Tom starts thinking that if things with Jimmy and Kelli Jo don’t pan out, he might start backtracking toward familiar ground.  It would appear that Tom and Ashley Lauren are perfect for each other in every way…  Except when it comes down to compatibility.

Jimmy, Ashley K., and Kelli Jo

Meanwhile, the Jimmy-and-Kelli-Jo of it all takes a bizarre turn of its own.  Jimmy, who’s been ignoring Kelli Jo since the Engagement Ceremony, is playing croquet with Ashley K. who is employing her considerable (if somewhat conspicuous) feminine wiles.  Whereas Tom was her ‘perfect fit’ last week, it seems Jimmy has the honor of filling that position this time around.  It’s like she’s a rogue piranha lurking just below the murky water, cruising around while she awaits the initial drop of blood to disrupt tranquil waters.  Perhaps I’m being unfair, but she does seem to have a penchant for singling out the least-available guy—Danny excluded (so far)—and trying to upset whatever precarious balance has been stuck.

Ashley K. - 'The Spouse House'

Jimmy, however, is taking this time to unwind and have a fun, easy-going time with Ashley K., whom he finds easy to be around.  The key here is that, while Jimmy’s pulling back is uncharacteristically abrupt, he’s not perusing his options like an indecisive diner at an upscale French restaurant—he’s still very much ‘Kelli Jo’.  But I’m not so sure Ashley K. knows that.

This continues the rest of the day, until Kelli Jo wakes up in the middle of the night.  She’s understandably rattled, and upset with how flamboyantly Ashley K. was flirting with Jimmy.  Things go from the passive to the aggressive in a hurry.  Kelli Jo enumerates her recurring feelings of inadequacy; Jimmy finds her jealousy off-putting, to the point that he says, “…like…just… I completely fell out of love with you.”

Jimmy and Kelli Jo - 'The Spouse House'

Why midnight arguments are best avoided…

Then, just for good measure, he tells her she’s immature.

Everything devolves quickly, with Ashley Lauren—appearing from out of nowhere—groggy, half-asleep, literally sitting in the middle of their conversation, almost as though she sleepwalked herself right into no-man’s land.  Or perhaps she was just sat there to break the tension, provide a little aberrant comic relief.

The following day, with both Jimmy and Kelli Jo MUCH calmer, they hash out their differences.  Kelli Jo admits to acting immaturely, and Jimmy confesses that he was projecting his own fear of taking another swing at marriage onto Kelli Jo.  Each having seen the other in a different light, the pair retracts from the headiness of the love-besotted to more stable, rational ground.  Both are happy with the other, but a bit less willing to wander blindly into something as monumental as marriage.

Pre-Engagement Ceremony

The day leading up to the Engagement Ceremony is a return to (relative) normalcy.  The hot-under-the-collar attitudes that plagued the week have simmered.  Scott, on the receiving end of a Tracy back-rub, looks like a man who’s found paradise, cracking jokes about shaving his back (a glimpse into future married life?).  Tracy’s equally enamored, and they slip to the head of the pack like they’d been greased with massage oil.  A consensus is reached that they shouldn’t rush into anything too quickly, but their feet seem firmly planted on the road to matrimony.

Then again, we’ve all seen that before….

Danny and Isabella play bags while Naya relaxes languidly in a lawn chair.  Isabella, when asked by Naya about her and Darren, hints that she’s not down with the whole ‘exploratory marriage’ thing.  Also that Darren was acting—(and this highly suspect)—possessive and that she’s just totally not into that.  Naya, who thinks Darren and Isabella are great together, does her best to talk up Darren, about how great a guy he is, to which Isabella counters by telling her how drawn she is to Darren, how they’re “vibing” and whatnot.

And to which my only question is: What the hell is going on?  First he’s great, then he’s possessive, but that doesn’t mean he’s not great and that they don’t ‘vibe’…  So, yeah, make of it what you will.

Jimmy, sitting alone on a flight of stairs, framed in an idyllic Malibu backdrop, enraptured in silent contemplation as he absentmindedly twiddles the box with his engagement ring, trying to decide whether he should propose or not.  He rejoins the group, who’ve engaged in a game of bags—some of you may know it as ‘cornhole’—before the camera cuts away to a ‘talking head’ segment with Tom.  Following his and Ashley Lauren’s most recent clash, Tom began looking at Kelli Jo (again) as his beacon of hope.  Realizing he made a mistake, he comments on how beautiful she looks.  Just…in…time…for…

Jimmy to propose and the credits to roll.  The look on his face is priceless (and I do feel bad), wallowing in regret as he considers the possibility that he could have been married by now had he gone with Kelli Jo…

But isn’t the grass always greener, anyway?  I mean, unless you’re color blind…

As always, watch new and old episodes of The Spouse House at TLC.com.

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Jack Kehres

Jack Kehres